The Greater Union Baptist Church. Credit: Provided

NEAR WEST SIDE — A 137-year-old Near West Side church was granted landmark status Wednesday following a City Council vote.

Greater Union Baptist Church, 1956 W. Warren Blvd., was named a city landmark at the same meeting in which alderpeople also landmarked Promontory Point on the South Side.

The church has stood since 1886 after members of the Church of the Redeemer congregation established themselves there. The congregation was founded in 1858 by A. C. Barry and comprised mostly Union soldiers and volunteers from the Civil War, taking a staunch abolitionist stance, according to the city’s report on preserving of the church.

The Church of the Redeemer also hosted lectures on the welfare of children and women’s right to vote, city officials said. Jenkin Lloyd Jones, uncle of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, also preached there for several years, officials said.

The congregation at the Church of the Redeemer raised funds for Wilberforce College in Ohio, the oldest historically black university, and provided more than 2,000 people with food and housing assistance, city officials said.

Ownership changed hands in 1928 after a Black Baptist congregation bought it for about $37,400 and turned it into the Greater Union Baptist Church. The church was active during the Civil Rights Movement, staying active in the NAACP and raising funds for victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four Black girls in 1963, officials said. Church members also supported a boycott of Chicago Public Schools to oppose racial segregation and overcrowding of schools.

The building was designed by William Le Baron Jenney, the creator of the skyscraper. It has been their place of worship for the last 94 years. 

The City Council introduced an ordinance in March to finalize landmark status for the church, protecting the building from significant alteration or demolition. The church was deemed landmark worthy for being a critical part of Chicago’s history, having significant people involved with the church, and for its design being important synonymous with Chicago history, officials said.

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